Why do things hurt?

June 8, 2022

Common question we get is why am I in pain? And if you take aside acute traumatic injuries, if you’ve just fallen down the stairs. Pain is often at the result of not enough of a gap between your capacity and demand or what you need to be able to do and what you can handle, now for lots of different reasons the demand will increase. Increase workload or increase stress in your life, even decrease, sleep, all of these things can increase the demand, sleep’s probably on the other side of the equation, we’ll get to that in a second, but increased demand both physically and mentally or emotionally and then your capacity or what you can handle. This could be that you do less exercise, you move less so your capacity drops or as I said before, things like you are suddenly getting much less sleep so your ability to handle these loads decreases.

Often I think about pain as a sign that those two lines are approximating and when they flip, so if your demand was to increase, that’s when, or, the threat of it increasing is when pain occurs. So what do we do about it then? Well, you could probably do three things, you could decrease the demand so you could deload some things, you could de-stress some things, or you could increase the capacity so you could get more sleep, you could do more physical activity, or ideally you could do both. Rehab will certainly increase what you can handle. We may not always be able to decrease the demand so what we’re trying to think of instead is increasing our buffer. So if we can’t decrease the demand, and sometimes you won’t be able to, there’s a certain amount of load in our life that we’re not going to be able to change. So if that was to become a problem, the solution is increasing our capacity. That’s just not getting stronger remember, that’s increasing your ability to tolerate things, which is just as variable as pain is and also just as individual as pain is as well. If we can either keep the demand the same or decrease it, and if we can increase our capacity and what we can handle, then what we’ve got is this nice big buffer zone and the bigger your buffer zone the less likely that your system is going to identify a problem without some big event.